Follow the arrows to the bathroom, they said.

What’s the easiest way to solve a maze? Often it’s the same way with accomplishing your goals. Here’s a helpful drill that I use with people when they feel overwhelmed or don’t know how to start or move towards their goal. I call it the ‘Days before’ drill.

Days before

Imagine a time in the distant future when you’ve achieved your goal. Take a minute or two to really immerse yourself in what you see, hear, and feel as you enjoy that satisfaction.

Now, reflect on the day before – what small thing did you do to put the finishing touches on accomplishing your goal? Write this down for Day Before 1.

Think back to the day before that one. What 1-3 small things did you do on that day? Write this down for Day Before 2.

Keep going back, one day at a time, and think about what 1-3 small things you did to work on your goal. Continue this process all the way until you get to your current situation.

Important notes

  •  The number of ‘Days before’ doesn’t matter at all – it could be 50, it could be 500.
  •  I always tell my clients that they’ll be revising this plan at least a few times as they realize some things need to be added and some can be taken away. Therefore, it’s generally best to write it down using a computer instead of pen and paper.
  •  Some steps in the process are very large tasks – instruct your client on breaking this down into small things to fit the format. It makes these tasks much less intimidating.
  •  It’s important to tell them that the ‘Days before’ are not necessarily consecutive. Day Before 2 and Day Before 3 might actually have a week in between them in real time. This also makes them much less intimidating by removing time pressure. It also accounts for just busy days in our lives, vacations, and other normal events.
  •  I actually don’t tell my clients to follow this plan once they’ve made  it. They almost always do because it gives them a clear path to their goal, but I leave it up to them when they start. I approach it as a mental exercise and not an obligation.
  •  As they begin to follow the plan, we’ll often tweak it by adding other things as their focus and understanding shifts.


I had client who had just moved into a new house and getting settled into was one of several major stressors in her life. She was an engineer so I knew she was very organized so I had her do this drill which she loved.

As we worked on her stress in other areas of her life, I would occasionally have her come back to this plan and revise it to add in other important things. Taking time for herself was a large component of her stress management plan and so I had her revise her ‘Days Before’ plan to account for days for herself. As she did that, she realized she also needed to deliberately set out time for her family and friends and she added that in as well.

This drill helped her get organized for settling into her house, but it also helped her build an awareness of her needs. She had realized that she assumed time for family and friends would just happen when it didn’t always work out that way. This allowed her to continue enjoying spontaneous moments with friends and family, but also learn when she needed to reach out and set something up.

The United Strengths